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How do I take care of an old dog?

This is individual to each animal and depends on the size of the dog, its breed and health. Small dogs tend to live longer. Many small breeds can live up to 20 years, and can only be called old after 12-14 years, while large dogs become old after about 6 years.

It is necessary to be particularly careful when your pet reaches what is known as the average age: 5 years for giant dogs, 7 years for large dogs, 8 years for medium dogs and 10 years for small dogs. Sometimes it is easy to make the mistake of overlooking a serious disease and treating it as a consequence of old age. Symptoms of serious disease include weight loss, lack of appetite, increased thirst, frequent urination, difficulty in breathing, lameness, emaciation, chronic diarrhoea or vomiting, bad breath or gingivitis.

Your friend won’t be able to tell you that he or she is ill. You should be alerted by any easily noticeable changes in the old dog’s behaviour, such as reluctance to go for walks, unconscious pacing, andleafing, sluggishness – these anxious signs are a sign that your pet is unwell.

10 rules for owners of elderly dogs:

1. Be sure to take your dog to the vet twice a year. A basic blood and urine test on a healthy dog will give you an idea of its normal condition, which you may need for comparison if it suddenly becomes ill. Regular check-ups with the vet are essential: the vet will check the dog’s heart and lungs, and examine the mouth, eyes, ears and lymph nodes.

2. Have your dog vaccinated every year. There is a misconception that old dogs do not need to be vaccinated, whereas the opposite is true: adult dogs are more susceptible to disease and need the extra protection that vaccines give to their weakened immunity.

3. Never postpone a visit to the vet if you notice a deterioration in your pet’s health, and don’t wait for the situation to become more serious. For example, if your dog’s teeth are covered in dark brown plaque, have the vet remove it as soon as possible before it becomes too bad.rotting and spreading the infection throughout the body.

4. In addition, dogs’ teeth must be cleaned regularly by themselves, using a special toothpaste for pets and then wiping them with a soft cloth. Many dogs like the taste of the paste and quickly get used to the procedure. About 85% of old dogs suffer from dental and gum disease.

5. Brush your dog more often. Old dogs should be bathed more often and special shampoos should be used to prevent dandruff and other skin conditions.

6. When brushing your companion, be sure to brush it to check for tumours. Also check the skin and coat, ears and eyes. The lining of the eye should be reddish in colour, as should healthy gums.

7. Spaying and neutering your pet will be particularly protective against mammary gland and prostate tumours. These operations are best carried out on a younger dog, but even at an older age they can be effective as a protective measure.

8. Try not to change the rules at home, so as not to cause an old dog tothese stresses. Your dog needs to live in a normal family environment, eating his usual food, and any changes in his life need to come gradually. When a new pet arrives, more attention must be paid to your old friend.

9. Physical exercise should be limited to a few short walks a day. If your dog tires quickly and has difficulty breathing after a walk, consult your vet.

10. Feed your old dog a good quality, balanced diet. In old age, dogs often gain extra weight due to slowed metabolism and obesity leads to other health problems, so it is important to follow a special diet. It is best to give food several times a day and to keep it off the table, as well as treats. Old dogs are often affected by diseases such as cancer, kidney, liver and heart disease. If these are diagnosed at an early stage and treatment is started, they can prolong a dog’s life by several years.

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